So last Friday (5th of December) was pakjesavond, a fun part of Sinterklaas. Now for those of you who are not Dutch or do not live in The Netherlands, Sinterklaas is kind of like Santa Claus. He is essentially St. Nicholas. He looks a little like a bishop, rides a white horse and has Zwarte Piet who help him give out the presents. Every year in November he arrives from Spain (where he lives all year), on a steamboat. There are a lot of fun traditions surrounding Sinterklaas. Children put their shoe out by the fireplace at night with some hay or a carrots for his horse and in the morning they should find the hay or carrots gone and a present in its place. I used to do this every year when I was younger and it was a lot of fun. Another tradition that I absolutely love love love, is surprises (pronounced: sur-preezes, sort of). We used to do this in school with our class every year, it was great fun. You pick some one’s name out of a hat and then you have to buy a present for that person. Kind of like Secret Santa. Except with surprises you have to put the present in something that has to do with the interests of the person whose name you picked. So a papier mâché football, or a box made to look like a rabbit hutch. You can get as creative as you like. My sister once made a styrofoam chocolate bar, and my friend once made a life sized Dalek from Doctor Who (that was amazing).
Now although I live in The Netherlands and I have lived here since I was born I am not Dutch and therefore I have never celebrated Sinterklaas with my family. However last Friday I celebrated Sinterklaas with my boyfriend’s family (who are Dutch). They do the same thing ever year where they each buy 5 presents and then play a game involving a dice where they have to unwrap, trade and pass presents around. It was a really fun game. My family plays a similar version at Christmas time, but I really enjoyed playing their version of the game and celebrating Sinterklaas somewhere other than school for the first time. It was a great night, and I’m very happy with the presents I ended up with. Some paper clips shaped like bicycles, mugs I can write on with chalk, and some Christmasy oven mitts.
I think next year at university, I’m going to get people to do surprises because I always love doing that. But this year was one of the best Sinterklaas celebrations I’ve had the chance to be a part of, and it was a wonderful way to spend the evening.
Until next time!